As I mentioned last week, every Monday for the next while I’m going to try to review a different children’s cookbook.
Today’s book is the DK Children’s Cookbook: Quick and Tasty Recipes for Young Chefs by Katherine Ibbs. This book was given to my son as part of his recent cooking class, and since all the recipes used in the class came from this book and my son has cooked a lot from it since, I’ve really been able to see this book in action. (You can see photos of my son’s finished dishes from this book here.)
Unlike the book reviewed last week, which was for tiny chefs, this book is more suitable for mid-elementary school-aged children and older. Unless your four-year-old is some sort of cooking prodigy and really can whip up a roast chicken on his or her own, little kids will definitely need a parent’s helping hand.
What my son likes about this book is that it has a wide variety of recipes, including ones for breakfast, ”light meals,” “main meals,” desserts and baking, and a lot of interesting ethnic variety, such as recipes for sushi, naan, falafel with tzatziki sauce, chicken curry and an Asian stir-fry. I think it makes him feel more grown-up that these are all very “adult” dishes, something I’ve appreciated, too, as the chief sampler of his finished products.
The book is very well photographed and has separate pictures for almost every cooking step, as well as tiny photos of each ingredient needed. It also has a really fantastic glossary of cooking terms that’s cleverly divided by task, so there’s a list of “Cutting Words” (e.g., chopping, coring, grating, dicing, scoring), “Cooking Words” (simmering, broiling, basting, toasting, etc.) and so on. The book also provides lots of helpful “Chef’s Tips” that even adults might learn from, like how to properly crush garlic, cream butter and sugar, dice an onion, deseed a pepper, and many more.
I do have a few quibbles with this book. The first is that a few of these recipes really are pretty hard for young kids — for example, a vegetable tart and an apple pie both with a homemade pie crust (heck, I still can’t do that well), a whole, trussed roast chicken, and a kneaded yeast bread. It’s not that children can’t pull these off, but without an experienced cook by their side it would be hard for them to master these more advanced techniques just from looking at photos and reading some text.
Second, the ethnic recipes are not terribly authentic, it seemed to me, so don’t expect your kid’s naan to taste a lot like your favorite Indian restaurant’s. Clearly, the author took some short cuts with her young audience in mind.
Finally, I’d also note that while very health-conscious parents will be able to find recipes to their liking, many of the dishes do use white flour and white sugar, especially in the desserts and baking sections. Also, while the author says she’s including desserts that provide healthy nutrients, that qualifier seemed like a bit of a stretch with items like a sugar cookie with just a dash of orange juice or a cheesecake with some canned mandarin orange slices tucked inside. Still, unlike the book reviewed last week, the author doesn’t call for highly processed, packaged foods like canned icing, boxed pudding mix and the like.
In truth, the DK Children’s Cookbook would actually be just as suitable for an adult first learning to cook as it is for kids. Given the array of basic cooking techniques and terms covered, I consider it a sort of Joy of Cooking for the younger set and would recommend it for any young chef’s growing library.
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